KATHMANDU: As the government is under pressure to hold three elections in less than a year, media educators and scholars of Nepal and Japan have highlighted the need for free, fair and impartial media coverage before, during and after the polls.

At a seminar held in Kathmandu, Keiichi Hashimoto, Japanese scholar and senior advisor to theJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), highlighted that biased media coverage could lead towards election violence; and advised to adopt a strict election code of ethics as well as media self-regulation practices so as to discourage the violence.

In his keynote address, Prof Chiranjibi Khanal noted that media fell short of compliance with the code of ethics for media during the two Constituent Assembly elections. He stressed that media should be free from keeping partisan views while covering election activities.

The symposium with the theme of how elections should be covered in a democratic country was jointly organised by the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Tribhuvan University and the JICA in the Capital today.

Prof Shiva Lal Bhusal, Dean of the TU Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, said Japanese experiences of election coverage would be hugely beneficial for Nepal as the country was all set to conduct three elections—local, provincial and federal—within the short span.

Takao Kobayashi, an NHK programme producer, shared his views about how media covered the election process in Japan and its relevance in the Nepali context. He said Japanese media, including the NHK, prohibited appearances of prospective candidates in their coverage.

Senior NHK journalist Masaharu Ando informed that his organisation had a specific code of conduct for journalists covering elections and suggested that it would be pertinent for Nepali media as well.

According to him, the code has to be duly followed while covering election campaigns, writing candidate profiles, forecasting winners as well as announcing the winners.

Addressing the event, JICA Chief Representative to Nepal, Jun Sakuma opined that media had an important role in disseminating accurate information during the election process so as to help people make right choices.

He also assured that JICA would look forward to work with Nepali media during the upcoming elections.